A pan-Igbo socio-cultural group, Igbo Ezue has condemned the invectives directed at South-East governors despite their role in preventing tension in the region as a result of the controversies that surrounded the proposed but now suspended Ruga Settlement Programme of the Federal Government.
The group, however, insisted that no project of any nature that will encourage or attract Fulani herders settlements being established in South East states by the Federal Government will be acceptable to them.
Fake stories of invasion and attacks by the Fulani Herders have been carried and posted on the internet. Many of the Ruga narratives are exaggerated and planted to blackmail the South East Governors by some political leaders and clandestine organizations and groups to push their 2023 political agenda.
The statement reads, “The proposed but now suspended Ruga Settlement Programme of the Federal Government has torn the nation apart along South-North and Fulani-Non Fulani lines. Threats and counter threats have come up from both the herders and famers across the country. Most worrisome to us is the heat generated by the project in the South East. A video showing “youths of Nenwe” in Enugu state driving away cattle and herders from the town made rounds. It took press releases and conference by the Police, the Igwe of Nenwe, his people and the Governor of Enugu State, Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to prevent what would have been a national calamity as Northern youths were already planning retaliation.
The South East Governors Forum had also issued a release on the Ruga Settlement Programme in their zone. The Governors rejected Ruga Settlement Programme and offered an alternative approach. In the heat of the Ruga controversies, President Buhari suspended the Ruga Settlement Programme in all the states of the federation. However, there is still tension across the country. Igbo Ezue, a pan-Igbo socio-cultural group investigated the Ruga project as it affects Ndigbo.
1. The Ruga Settlement Programme is a project of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. Ruga Settlement refers to the establishment of rural settlements in which animal farmers, not just cattle herders, would be settled in an organized place with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities. Such amenities include schools, hospitals, road networks, veterinary clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that would process and add value to meats and animal products. The settlements are to be built in the 36 states of the country to stop roaming of cattle herders with the attendant clashes with farmers across Nigeria – President Muhammadu Buhari [Twitter/@NGRPresident].
2. The Ruga Settlement Programme has been criticized and rejected in the South East, South West and South South states. Taraba and Benue states have also rejected the project.
3. South East Governors Forum has also issued a release rejecting the Ruga Settlement Programme in their zone and respective states. There have been inflammatory comments and declarations from various quarters that are inimical to mutual co-existence of Nigerians.
4. The Federal Government has assured that there is no plan to seize any state land or force state governments to embrace the scheme. The programme is voluntary.
5. Based on the vehement outcry and condemnation of the Ruga Settlement Programme by the South East and South South states, misguided Arewa youths issued threats to southerners living in the Northern parts of the country. Also, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) also issued threats; giving a 30-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to reverse the suspension order or face dire consequences. In response to all these provocative statements, Ohaneze Ndigbo through her President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo, issued a statement in defense of South East states’ rejection of Ruga Settlement Programme and warned the Arewa Youths and Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria against carrying out their threats as that would trigger same treatment on Northerners in the South East states. Ndigbo applauded Ohaneze for this.
6. Igbo Ezue discovered that while it is true that the South East and South South States are against the establishment of Ruga Settlements or any form of herders settlement in our states; mischief makers have utilized the situation to cause friction among the Fulani herders and the South East zone and planted fears in the minds of the people. Fake stories of invasion and attacks by the Fulani Herders have been carried and posted on the internet. Many of the Ruga narratives are exaggerated and planted to blackmail the South East Governors by some political leaders and clandestine organizations and groups to push their 2023 political agenda.
Igbo Ezue is against any form of Ruga Settlement Programme on Igbo soil. No project of any nature that will encourage or attract Fulani herders settlements being established in South East states by the Federal Government is acceptable to us.
We hereby observe that the pressure, insults and abuse targeted at our South East Governors are unnecessary and serve no useful purpose. We trust our governors to do what is best for our people all the time. We reliably informed that no approach or Memorandum on Ruga Settlement Programme has reached any state governor in the South East. Everything is still based on rumours and speculations. In spite of this, our governors met and issued a statement on that. This is highly commendable. We call on our Governors, who must accent to any part of our land being used for the Ruga Settlement Programme or similar programme to promptly reject such. We support their efforts towards maintaining peace and harmony among our people and people from other tribes in Nigeria. Ndigbo are peace loving and hospitable people.
We say, “Enough is Enough” to mischief makers! Enough of the blackmail against our governors, who are working hard to protect our land, ensure peaceful co-existence and deliver dividends of democracy to our people. We must not play politics with everything. PLEASE LEAVE OUR GOVERNORS ALONE!
Chief Ibeziamko Zimako Jnr.